To his colorful resume, former mayor, Assembly speaker and bon vivant man-about town Willie Lewis Brown, Jr. has in his sunset years added newspaper columnist, his Willie’s World running in the Sunday Chronicle for about two years (part of the paper’s physical-paper-only content that’s meant to make us run out, buy the paper and save our beleaguered industry).
Da Mayor’s a little bit different than the rest of us ink-stained wretches, however, and not just because he wears Armani, eats at Waterbar (we hear he’s a shit tipper; he is free to take us out to Tadich and prove otherwise) and lives at the frigging St. Regis. He also has special privileges, like the ability to attend — and indeed, headline — paid political fundraisers, an act that would destroy lesser writers, or at least lead their bosses to instruct them not to do it.
This Thursday, Brown is scheduled to appear with Republican megadonor Howard Leach at a political luncheon held for the benefit of Proposition B, the contentious city employee pension reform measure authored by Public Defender Jeff Adachi (to whom Brown referred in a July column as “on his way to becoming a candidate for mayor”).
“Howard Leach and Willie Brown Invite You to Attend… a special lunch in support of PROP B PENSION & HEALTH BENEFITS Reform,” reads an e-mail shared with The Appeal. No word on how much they’re asking each luncher to contribute, or if it’s appropriate to wear pinstripes.
It’s also by invitation only, so if you were to crash it — Thursday at noon at the Le Meridien Hotel, 333 Battery Street — things might not go well.
Now, nowhere in “Willie’s World” — not on its Web presence or in the print product — is Brown’s status as a(n) (in)famous politician noted, or a disclaimer saying something like “Just because Willie likes this shitty movie and name-drops celebrities/businesses/issues he may be being paid to promote doesn’t mean The Chronicle/Hearst can/does” printed.
That’s because it’s safe to assume that most San Franciscans know who Willie Brown is (in every sense of the word), hence he can do things normal journalists can’t. At least, that’s the assumption Chronicle editors are making.
“This is a completely different situation [from Nevius’s and Melissa Griffin’s],” said Chronicle managing editor Steve Proctor, setting the world record for promptness with his telephone call coming within seconds of our e-mail.
It was Proctor who pulled Chronicle local columnist CW “Chuck” Nevius from a fundraiser held last week, a fundraiser subsequently to be headlined by Examiner scribe Melissa Griffin, who was in turn pulled by her editors.
“Willie Brown is a famous ex-politician, and everyone knows he’s a politician,” Proctor said. “He’s a guest columnist, not an employee of the newspaper, and he’s going to continue to do the things he does [as an ex-pol and man about town]. That’s not something I have control over, nor is it something I would want to have control over.”
The Appeal considered e-mailing Brown himself for comment but thought it would just be silly. Of course, nobody would ever confuse us with Brown and not just because we feast on grilled cheese rather than lobby for contracts to improve the state’s water infrastructure before a meal at Nopa.
So that’s it: it’s Willie’s World with Willie’s rules, and we just live in it.